LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Khalil Herbert’s name barely registered on draft weekend.
Selected by the Bears with the 217th overall pick in the sixth round from Virginia Tech, Herbert spent more time during his introductory press conference discussing how he was born with six toes on his left foot and 12 toes, two of which were removed. that what would be his role for the Bears.
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It seemed simple.
Herbert played the role of featured running back last year for the Hokies (1,183 yards and eight touchdowns) and for Kansas from 2016 to 2019 (35 career games, 1,735 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns), but the Bears seemed established at the position. with David Montgomery. and veteran Damien Williams, not to mention Tarik Cohen, who is recovering from a torn ACL.
No, the Bears said they selected Herbert primarily to assist in the kickoff comeback game.
Except Herbert’s rookie contributions of late have gone way beyond special teams.
With Montgomery on injured reserve with a knee sprain since Week 5 and Williams battling thigh and knee injuries as well as a spell on reserve / COVID-19, Herbert has emerged as the leading running back for Chicago, gaining hard yards on an ultra impressive shorten.
“He prepares like a pro. Take the opportunity. You are not afraid to ask questions. Most importantly, he’s having fun playing soccer, “Bears running back coach Michael Pitre said last week.” I think all of those things combined and how he works, has created a great opportunity for him to step in and help this soccer team. “
Since the Bears’ 20-9 Week 5 win over the Raiders, Herbert has rushed for 344 yards, the fourth-most in the league in that span, and averaged 4.41 yards per carry. His 78 rushing attempts are second only to Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.
“I really feel like the game has started to slow down for me,” Herbert said.
Sometimes it’s easy to mistake Herbert for Montgomery. Both run with a low center of gravity that allows them to explode through holes in the offensive line. At 5 feet 9 inches and 212 pounds, Herbert has proven difficult to tackle in the open field and in tight spaces near the line of scrimmage.
“I love that Herbert makes decisions very quickly, so when he makes decisions and puts one foot on the ground, he hits him with that low-contact balance that’s hard to knock down,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “So there aren’t a lot of negative yards, which is important. And that, combined with probably your confidence, will grow every day with every snapshot you receive. And I love his behavior. He’s a team player, he’s not very vocal or loud or anything like that, but he’s a very good running back. “
“Khalil is just a guy who has natural vision, but everything is set up with the other 10 guys in the field doing his job, allowing him to go do his job,” Pitre said. scheme, [and] what we do. And the offensive line, tight ends, receivers, all those guys are doing a great job blocking their tails. It makes it really easy for him to do his job. “
Montgomery’s return is inevitable. Herbert may not get most of the touches for much longer, but the experience gained on this stretch has been invaluable.
“Khalil can do it all,” Bears center Sam Mustipher said. “Just the way he runs behind his pads, his vision, his ability to explode through contact, his ability to understand his tasks. He just runs really hard. “
Second-year tight end Cole Kmet summed it up best.
“Khalil has been amazing since he arrived … just amazing,” he said.